Meal Planning Monday ~ Garden Fresh

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Well I did it!  I planted my garden!  I decided to grow lettuce, carrots, basil, cilantro, tomatoes, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spaghetti squash, cucumbers, green peppers, and squash.  (Yes, that’s it!)  I haven’t had a garden in years due to being pregnant or just having a baby in the late spring/ early summer, so I decided to go all out this year.  I love having a garden for two main reasons.  First, I like knowing exactly where my food is coming from.  Second, my kids helped plant the veggies and they can watch them grow.  There’s nothing better than seeing joy on your children’s faces when they realize they helped to grow something.

I thought for this week’s meal plan I would share with you some garden-fresh recipes.

Chicken Bruschetta ~ There’s nothing better than grilled chicken topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil from your garden!

Honey Balsamic Carrots ~ These make a delicious side that the whole family will love!

Caprese Salad ~ Grab some tomatoes off the vine and basil, throw in some mozzarella cheese and top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar…amazing!

Cucumber and Onion Salad ~ I really wanted to grow onions this year but ran out of room, so maybe next year.

Squash and Onions with Brown Sugar ~ I turned my nose up a little when I first read the recipe but it is really good.

Coleslaw ~ The best coleslaw is made with cabbage fresh picked from the garden!

Salad ~ Fresh lettuce from your garden, topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers.  You can’t get any fresher than that!

 

Cucumber Onion Salad (from Paula Deen)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cucumbers (about 2 cucumbers), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Directions

In a large serving bowl, toss together the cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, onion, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste.  Let the salad stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Waste Not!

            A fellow coupon blogger posted a challenge at the end of March – Let’s try to waste as little food as possible in April.  I was shocked to learn that Americans throw away 27% of their food!  I’m ashamed to say that I throw away more food than I would like to admit, so I decided to take the challenge.  First I had to figure out what I was throwing out or wasting on a regular basis and why. 

            Produce and leftovers seemed to be the bulk of the food that I was throwing away.  I realized that I was over-buying certain produce items.  I love spinach salads with cucumbers, feta cheese, and Greek dressing.  Almost every week, I was buying fresh baby spinach and cucumbers for my salads.  So, what’s the problem?  When I would return home from my grocery shopping trip, I would frequently be tossing out half of last week’s salad stuff to make room for the fresh items.  I’m spending $4 – $5 on my spinach and cucumbers, so throwing any of it away is a colossal waste of food and money! 

            Here’s what I decided to do: I would buy my salad stuff every other week and see if I’m eating all of it before it goes bad.  I’m also trying to use any extra spinach in other dishes.  I decided to plant both spinach and cucumbers in my garden this year, so I can pick what I need on a salad-by-salad basis.  Now, when I’m at the grocery store in the produce aisle, I am being more selective about the produce I’m buying.  I’m asking myself, “Are we going to be able to eat all of this before it goes bad?  If not, can I freeze it?”  If I can’t honestly answer “yes” then it doesn’t go in the cart.

            Leftovers were also ending up in the trash.  Why?  Sometimes it’s because my husband and I are tired of eating a particular dish (and it sits in the fridge for too long) and other times it’s because the leftovers are only part of a meal – rice or veggies.  So, here is what I decided to do to decrease our waste of leftovers.   If I even slightly suspect that leftovers aren’t going to be eaten within 24-48 hours, they are going right into the freezer.  I keep a freezer inventory sheet so that I know what freezer meals and side dishes are on hand.

            I haven’t completely eliminated food waste, but I have definitely seen a decrease in the amount of food that’s ending up in the trash can since I’ve started this experiment.  I’ve also noticed an increase in the amount of money in my wallet!  This is one experiment I plan to continue.  Won’t you join me?  Here is my meal plan for this week.

 

Monday ~ Turkey chili.  This recipe makes a huge batch so leftovers will go into individual containers to be frozen.

Tuesday ~ Black Bean Soup with shredded cheddar cheese and crushed tortilla chips on top.

Wednesday ~  Pasta with chicken sausage and spicy tomato sauce and salad.

Thursday ~ Tomato Basil Soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.  I recently went through my pantry and realized that I had 18 cans of diced tomatoes!  Time to put some of those to good use.  I’ll use 6 of those cans this week between the chili and the tomato basil soup.

Friday ~ Coconut Crusted Tilapia with jasmine rice and veggies.

Saturday ~ Dinner out for me and hubby.

Sunday ~ Beer Chicken in the Crockpot with twice-baked potatoes and garlic roasted asparagus.  Leah’s recipe in last week’s post sounded so good, I have to try it for myself!

 

Here’s the recipe for the Tomato Basil Soup.

 

Tomato Basil Soup

1 Tbs of Olive Oil

3 Cloves of Garlic, minced

3 cups of Chicken Broth

¼ tsp. Salt

3 Cans (14.5 oz.) of Diced Tomatoes, undrained

1 Cup of fresh Basil leaves, thinly sliced (or 1 Tbs. of dried basil)

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Stir in broth, salt, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Stir in basil the last two or three minutes of cooking.  Use an immersion blender to puree to your desired consistency.  (You can also put the diced tomatoes in the blender before adding them to the soup.)